- New NHS guidelines have been drawn up for screening children for measles
A major measles outbreak is looming in Britain this winter, causing “many deaths”, senior doctors warn.
Falling vaccination rates have led to a resurgence of the once-rare disease which officials worry could be “disastrous” for the NHS.
Experts are so concerned that they have drawn up new guidelines for NHS staff when dealing with children with respiratory infections, urging them to “think about measles”.
In an unprecedented move, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is asking healthcare professionals to check the vaccination records of all children arriving at hospital.
Any symptoms of the disease, such as fever and cough, should be isolated immediately and staff should wear personal protective equipment.
Experts are so concerned they have drawn up new guidance for NHS staff when dealing with children with respiratory infections, urging them to ‘think about measles’ (File image)
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should also be promoted to anyone who has not received both doses, the university says.
The guidance comes amid measles outbreaks in the UK and Europe, with cases reported in cities including Sheffield, Leicester, Cardiff and London.
It is arguably the most infectious disease in existence and the World Health Organization recently warned of a “perfect storm” for a large-scale outbreak.
The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, breathes or sneezes and can remain in the air for up to two hours. The vaccination rate must reach 95 percent to stop the disease.
But falling vaccination rates and a Covid hangover mean only 85 per cent of five-year-olds in England have received the recommended two doses, according to the latest data.
Historical hesitancy about the MMR vaccine also means that cases are being reported among adolescents and adults.
Poor vaccine uptake in London means an outbreak of between 40,000 and 160,000 cases could occur in the capital, the UK Health Security Agency warns.
Professor Helen Bedford, of University College London, said: “If we have more cases, we will see many very sick children and many hospitalisations.”
Historical hesitancy over the MMR vaccine also means cases are being reported among teenagers and adults (File Image)
“People are still dying from measles in the UK, but if the numbers come in we will see a lot of deaths.” It is not just a mild childhood illness.
‘The challenge with measles is that you can’t just achieve a high infection rate and then let it go down: it has to stay there. It is considered the most infectious disease that exists.”
President of the Royal College Dr Camilla Kingdon said the health service is already facing winter surges in respiratory infections, flu, Covid and group A strep.
“Adding another highly contagious and dangerous disease to this mix would be disastrous and could bring our already fragile system to its knees,” he warned.
According to the most recent official data, there have been 149 confirmed cases in England, more than half in London. But the real number is likely higher.
Experts urge anyone, including adults, who has not received two doses of MMR to get vaccinated.